San Diego State Is Not California Dreamin’ Entering National Title Game Against Favored UConn

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HOUSTON – Connecticut is a blue blood, and it just won its fifth straight NCAA Tournament game by double digits, ripping Miami, 72-59, late Saturday night in the second game of the Final Four.

The No. 4 seed Huskies (30-8) will be after their fifth national championship since 1999 and they are in their sixth Final Four. They will play No. 5 seed San Diego State (32-6), which is in its first Final Four and beat No. 9 seed Florida Atlantic, 72-71, in thriller earlier Saturday.

Tip-off for the title game is at 9:20 p.m. Monday on CBS.

San Diego State is not a blue blood. It’s a beach team, right? But it thinks it’s a blue blood. And that’s all that matters.

“This is proof right here,” San Diego State senior forward Keshad Johnson said when asked if the Aztecs are still a “mid-major” program. “This is proof in the pudding. What are they going to say now? That’s all I can say. We’re here.”

San Diego State Is No Beach Team

OK, San Diego State is not a beach team.

“It’s been our plan the whole year,” San Diego State senior forward Aguek Arop said.


Maybe not the whole season. But San Diego State coach Brian Dutcher did tell his dad this week to sit Saturday’s game out because he has been ill.

“I told him we’re going to win, Dad, so you can come in for the championship,” he said.

The Aztecs play defense as good as anyone in the country. That’s why they’re here. Of course, so does UConn, which never really let the Hurricanes (29-8) into its game and led comfortably throughout.

Nijel Pack Shoegate Sneakers
Miami guard Nijel Pack tries to drive against Connecticut during UConn’s win Saturday night in the Final Four at NRG Stadium in Houston. (Photo by Carmen Mandato/Getty Images)

“I just love the way we guarded,” UConn coach Dan Hurley said. “We really disrupted them. We really got them with body blows until we could knock them out.”

It will be a defensive standoff Monday night between two of the best at it.

“I know how they guard,” Hurley said. “Brian Dutcher is one of the best pure coaches in the country.”

Dutcher will have to find a way to stop UConn forward Adama Sanogo, who scored 21 points with 10 rebounds against Miami. And that’s after another day of fasting as he is a Muslim adhering to the Ramadan holy month. He should fast more often.

UConn’s Adama Sanogo And Jordan Hawkins Delivered

And San Diego State will have to deal with guard Jordan Hawkins, who scored 13 despite suffering from a stomach ailment and probably fasting as well. Michael Jordan did something similar for the Bulls in the NBA Playoffs.

“This guy next to me who has felt like death the last two days to be able to give us what he gave us, obviously those performances are why we’re moving on,” Hurley said.

“I couldn’t sit this one out,” Hawkins said. “It’s the Final Four, man. I don’t care how I was feeling. I had to play and be there for my guys. I’m so happy. We’ve got one more game left, though. My condition was a little bit off. But no reason to be concerned on Monday. I feel great.”

UConn has also been smelling another national championship all March.

“We’ve been striving for five (national championships) for awhile,” Hurley said. Previous coach Jim Calhoun won the first three before Kevin Ollie won the last one in 2014.

San Diego State would like its first.

The Butler Did It For San Diego State

“We can’t lose sight of what we’re trying to do here,” Aztecs’ guard Darrion Trammell said. “We want to win this national championship. We’re doing this for our families. We’re doing it for ourselves. We’re doing it for the respect that we deserve.”

Even if San Diego State does lose, it has that respect. And it will always have Saturday night and Lamont Butler’s buzzer beater. Yes, the Butler did it.

“That’s something we’re going to remember for the rest of our lives,” Trammell said. “When we are at each other’s weddings, and we’re done with all this, we’re going to come back and remember that moment.”

Written by Glenn Guilbeau

Guilbeau joined OutKick as an SEC columnist in September of 2021 after covering LSU and the Saints for 17 years at USA TODAY Louisiana. He has been a national columnist/feature writer since the summer of 2022, covering college football, basketball and baseball with some NFL, NBA, MLB, TV and Movies and general assignment, including hot dog taste tests.

A New Orleans native and Mizzou graduate, he has consistently won Associated Press Sports Editors (APSE) and Football Writers Association of America (FWAA) awards since covering Alabama and Auburn at the Mobile Press-Register (1993-98) and LSU and the Saints at the Baton Rouge Advocate (1998-2004). In 2021, Guilbeau won an FWAA 1st for a game feature, placed in APSE Beat Writing, Breaking News and Explanatory, and won Beat Writer of the Year from the Louisiana Sports Writers Association (LSWA). He won an FWAA columnist 1st in 2017 and was FWAA's top overall winner in 2016 with 1st in game story, 2nd in columns, and features honorable mention.

Guilbeau completed a book in 2022 about LSU's five-time national champion coach - "Everything Matters In Baseball: The Skip Bertman Story" - that is available at, and Barnes & Noble outlets. He lives in Baton Rouge with his wife, the former Michelle Millhollon of Thibodaux who previously covered politics for the Baton Rouge Advocate and is a communications director.

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